“Pour une Bienveillance offensive” (2020) – [eng]

(For an offensive Benevolence)

I see the most urgent tasks in reducing “social distancing” again, step by step, meter by meter, centimeter by centimeter. The art world – and by this I mean the artists, the art institutions, the art academies, art criticism, yes, the art market must not adopt “social distancing”. Simply because art – without any distance – is autonomous, universal, absolute and necessary. I must show and exemplify why art is necessary, why it is necessary for me, but also why it is necessary for others. The toxic term “Social Distancing” – I do not doubt its temporary usefulness – must under no circumstances become the new paradigm for living together in the world, in the art world. It is urgent to work on it and to show that art – because it is art – can create a dialogue or a confrontation one to one and at eye level. It is important to insist that art is ‘resistant’, which means that it resists economic, cultural, political, aesthetic facts. It is not about ignoring the threat of ‘Covid-19’, it is – on the contrary – about taking it seriously, about understanding it as a warning, as a test, as a challenge. I think that contact, encounter, exchange, neighbourhood, confrontation, freedom, freedom in bondage, inclusivity, multiplicity, solidarity, equality, creativity are concepts that are more important than ever, because they have been challenged by the forced “social distancing”. Here the artist has a decisive role to play, since concepts such as distance, control, social control, containment, security, guarantee, tracing, repression, exclusivity have nothing to do with the experience of ‘art’. Rather, resistance is needed to combat opportunistic, consumerist and exclusionary tendencies – which have always existed in the art world. I don’t want “social distancing” to triumph in the art world, I want to fight for the experiment of ‘art’. My weapon will be my work – and I want to do it with increased bienveillance. (I use the French term ‘bienveillance’ because it precisely describes what I mean). I want to work with more bienveillance of the other, I want to work with more bienveillance of the world – our whole, our only world – and I want to work with more bienveillance of myself. I want to learn something from this crisis and make decisions. It’s about using art – more than ever – as a tool to engage with the world, to confront myself with the time I live in and to face the reality that surrounds me. I want to confront the precarious, the insecure, the non-guaranteed, the uncertain, the indeterminate, the strange, the frightening, the uncanny with ‘ offensive bienveillance’ in my art. I am thinking of an intelligent, generous, dynamic, demanding, active, asserting, practical and combative bienveillance – it is not about a passive, wait-and-see, spiritual, religious, theoretical benevolence. I want to point out – this is my mission as an artist today – what I am prepared to live and work for. “Social Distancing” and “Home Office” are not part of it. It would rather be a mistake to step into this stupid and clumsy – but also tempting – trap. Virtual exhibitions’, ‘virtual artworks’, ‘virtual learning’, ‘virtual exchange’, ‘virtual communication’ are only sham solutions or excuses and they are all the more dangerous because they are desired, encouraged or even required by the state. But nobody – not even the state – can tell me how to work in the future. Therefore, it is essential to be sensitive, critical, alert and attentive to the virtual and the digital – there is no need to hide behind the computer. We have to resist the temptation of ‘staying among ourselves’ and ‘diving into the Internet’ – also in the art world. If we give in to the tendency to “isolate” or “self-isolation”, it would mean giving up the debate, the discussion, the criticism, the conflict – everything that art can create. That’s why I question – as many others – the ‘continuity dogma of distance technologies’. But I do not exclude myself from this: I too have succumbed to the urge for ‘continuity’ on several occasions in recent weeks, and I too have used ‘distance technologies’. And I, like many others, only wanted to say: “I exist, I’m still alive, I’m still working!” This I will forgive myself, the artist, if I keep what I set out to assert: “Pour une Bienveillance offensive”.

T.H. May 2020